Saturday, January 24, 2015

E3: 11. More Elementary than usual.

"The Problem of Thor Bridge" in four minutes -- hey, Elementary is doing the Canon! Or did back in November of 2013. This morning, as I went to the on-demand to catch up on this week's episode, I wound up watching an episode of Elementary that I apparently missed quite a while back. Maybe it was the Thanksgiving holiday of that year, or maybe it was the rampant disgust at what the show had done to Mycroft Holmes in that year, but what I found was that I had actually missed one of the better, more focused episodes of the show.

Spinning off "Thor Bridge," the episode called "On the Line," builds a pretty good story on top of a Canonical inspiration and actually uses the oddness of NYPD allowing him to work with them as a part of its tale. And it's just Mr. Elementary and Joan Watson, working well together. No idiot version of Mycroft, no cute and cuddly version of Kitty WInter, no random trivia rolled in as plot points. Just a solid story, spinning off an actual Canonical tale and ending with a solution inspired by a totally different Sherlock Holmes story. If every episode of Elementary was like this one, my opinion of the show might have been slightly different. Why the on-demand service decided to serve up this little gem to me this week before the latest serial killer to cross Mr. Elementary's path, I'm not sure. But on to this week's episode "The Illustrious Client."

Canonical title, yes, but the "Previously on Elementary" starts with that ridiculous Kitty-Winter-versus-Joan-Watson singlestick fight and follows with all those details that makes one go, "Oh, yeah, this is how this show regularly goes." And we start with Joan's new job at an insurance company. But this is Kitty Winter's episode and Ophelia Lovibond immediately has me regretting the "no cute and cuddly version of Kitty Winter" comment earlier in this rant. The lady can definitely grab audience attention when she wants to.

And both that November show "On the Line" and this week's "The Illustrious Client" were written by Jason Tracey, who has proven himself the best of the Elementary writers since his first outing "Snow Angels." And both stories feature imprisoned women . . . only this time the release of those prisoners isn't the end of things. Kitty and Joan's work with a human trafficking victim start taking the show to a darker, more serious place, but then the bandying of the name "Simon DeMerville" takes a Sherlockian a bit out of the story for a moment. The standard Elementary use of a Canonical name ("DeMerville") with a character who has no similarity to the one in the original Sherlock Holmes story is more of a distraction than a help at moments like this.

And then, we get Joan in her new job with her new boss, Del Gruner, talking insurance, which takes one a little bit further from the women's tale. Unlike that 2013 episode, which started at the end of the Canon's "Thor Bridge" and grew from there, "Illustrious Client" and Gruner just have a Sherlockian sitting around waiting for the moment when they connect Gruner to the crimes that Kitty Winter was a victim of. Watching Kitty, Joan, Mr. Elementary, and the NYPD struggling to get to that connection adds a degree of frustration to the viewing, but having Kitty Winter rough up Violet DeMerville off-screen helps soothe that little issue.

Not that I'm in favor of woman-on-woman violence, mind you, but we all know how frustrating the Canonical Violet DeMerville was to Kitty Winter. A few whacks with the single-stick might have made for the stuff of a fun "Illustrious Client" fan-fic, so the implying of same here is not completely unwelcome.

When Kitty Winter finally recognizes Gruner's voice as that of her tormentor, Ophelia Lovibond delivers another great performance (both her scenes with Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller in this show always seem to elevate things just a bit). But at that point, the show is suddenly over, and one realizes this was all just set-up for going after Gruner full-on next week.

So, as this week's Elementary is just half a story, it's a little hard to render a verdict on it until then. The wikipedia episode guide says next week we get an entirely different writer . . . the show's creator Rob Dougherty. The guy who gave us idiot Mycroft, blew up the contents of 221B Baker Street, and generally . . . well, I will ere on the side of kindness and shut up now.

On it goes.

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